World No Tobacco Day

According to the sixth edition of The Tobacco Atlas, launched at the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town in March 2018, more than 900,000 adults in the UAE use tobacco every day, with smoking responsible for one in eight deaths among men in the country. World No Tobacco Day on May 31 serves as an opportunity to understand why this toxic habit still maintains a stranglehold at a time of increasing health awareness.

Smokers live in an almost endless state of nicotine withdrawal, from the first cigarette of the day until the last. As soon as you finish smoking one cigarette, the nicotine level in your bloodstream begins to drop, signaling the start of nicotine withdrawal. In a matter of 30 minutes, you are thinking about your next cigarette, and by the one-hour mark, most smokers are jittery and irritable if they cannot smoke.

It is important to remember, that despite the satisfaction one gets from puffing at a cigarette, smoking brings with it irreversible health impacts.

With 3,000 smoking-related deaths a year in the UAE alone, it has been well established that smoking is a major risk factor and the prime cause of developing several chronic diseases such as cancer, pulmonary disorders, hypertension and cardiovascular conditions. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 7 million people worldwide die annually from using tobacco. This figure includes around 890,000 deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke.

What smoking does to your heart

Tobacco use has been proven to damage the structure of your heart and impair the functioning of your blood vessels, which eventually leads to cardiovascular diseases. Regular smoking increases your risk of heart failure, as blood vessels in your heart begin to thicken. This in turn causes your heart to beat faster, your blood pressure to rise, and your blood to clot. Once the flow of blood to your heart is constricted, it cannot get enough oxygen, thereby damaging the muscles of the heart and leading to cardiac arrest.

Smoking increases the risk of stroke, with smokers known to be at two to four times higher risk of a stroke than non-smokers. A stroke takes place when a clot blocks the blood from your brain or when an artery around or in your brain explodes.

Here’s how you can quit

  • Let people know what to expect when you quit and how they can help. Give your loved ones a fair warning on how you may react in the absence of tobacco. If you are likely to feel nervous or grouchy, ask them to be patient, as your moodiness and cravings are short-term issues.
  • Participate in activities that keep your mind off smoking. Try taking lunchtime walks, going to the movies, or getting involved in a new hobby.
  • Find someone else who wants to quit, and agree to be ‘quit buddies’. When you know that someone is sharing the same goal and can help you beat your cravings, it can make kicking the habit that much easier.
  • Identify your triggers, and ask for help in avoiding them. For example, if you always have a smoke during a coffee break, ask a coworker to pass by your desk at the time for a chat or a quick walk.
  • Friends who have quit smoking can help you, as they will understand what you’re going through and see you through your cravings.
  • If you live with someone who smokes, see if that person wants to quit smoking with you. If not, talk with him or her about not smoking in front of you and about setting up smoke-free areas.
  • Tell your doctor the good news about planning to quit. In addition to suggesting a medicine to help you fast-track the process, they can advise you on trying nicotine replacement, and help you decide whether to use one product or a combination of two products for best results.
  • Join a support group for people who are attempting to quit smoking. People who have quit, or are in the process of doing so, know what you’re going through and can help you.